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Quaintly Ignorant
88245.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:17 am Reply with quote

The English word eunuch is from the Greek eune ("bed") and ekhein ("to keep"), effectively "bed keeper."
Historically significant eunuchs

In chronological order.

* Aspamistres or Mithridates (5th century BCE) Bodyguard of Xerxes I of Persia, and (with Artabanus) his murderer.
* Bagoas (4th century BCE) Prime minister of king Artaxerxes III of Persia, and his murderer.
* Bagoas (4th century BCE) A favorite of Alexander the Great. Influential in changing Alexander's attitude toward Persians & therefore in the king's policy decision to try to integrate the conquered peoples fully into his Empire as loyal subjects. He thereby paved the way for the relative success of Alexander's Seleucid successors and greatly enhanced the penetration of Greek culture to the East.
* Sima Qian - old romanization: Ssu-ma Chi'en (2nd/1st century BCE) Was the first person to have practiced modern historiography - gatherering and analyzing both primary and secondary sources in order to write his monumental history of the Chinese empire.
* Ganymedes (1st century BC) Highly capable adviser & general of Cleopatra VII's sister & rival, Princess Arsinoe. Defeated & almost killed Julius Caesar in battle at Alexandria, capturing his cloak in the process. Could have changed the history of Rome and of the eastern Mediterranean if he had not been displaced through Egyptian court intrigue.
* Pothinus ( 1st century BC) Regent for pharaoh Ptolemy XII.
* Cai Lun - Ts'ai Lun in the old romanization (1st/2nd century CE) Reasonable evidence exists to suggest that he was truly the inventor of paper. At the very least, he established the importance of paper and standardized its manufacture in the Chinese empire.
* Origen - early Christian theologian, castrated himself based on his reading of the Gospel of Matthew 19:12 (For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.). Despite the fact that the early Christian theologian Tertullian wrote that Jesus was a eunuch, there is no corroboration in any other early source. (The Skoptsy did, however, believe it to be true.) Tertullian also wrote that he knew, personally, the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and that he was a eunuch. Again, this is not attested elsewhere.
* Eutropius (5th century CE) Only eunuch known to have attained the highly distinguished and very influential position of Roman Consul.
* Narses (478-573) General of Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I, responsible for destroying the Ostrogoths in 552 at the Battle of Taginae in Italy and saving Rome for the empire.
* Ignatius of Constantinople (799-877). Twice Patriarch of Constantinople during troubled political times [847-858 & 867-877]. First absolutely unquestioned eunuch saint, recognised by both the Orthodox & Roman Churches. (There are a great many early saints who were probably eunuchs, though few either as influential nor unquestioned as to their castration.)
* Ly Thuong Kiet (1019-1105), general during the Ly Dynasty in Vietnam. Penned what is considered the first Vietnamese declaration of independence. Regarded as a Vietnamese national hero.
* Pierre Abélard (1079-1142), French scholastic philosopher & theologian.
* Zheng He (1371-1433), famous admiral who led huge Chinese fleets of exploration around the Indian Ocean.
* Judar Pasha (late 16th century) A blonde, blue-eyed Spanish eunuch who became the head of the Moroccan invasion force into the Songhai Empire. In 1591, despite overwhelming odds, his forces conquered a large swath of sub-Saharan Africa for the Saadi Dynasty and firmly entrenched Islam in the region.
* Carlo Broschi, called Farinelli (1705-82), the most famous Italian castrato.

See also Eunuchs

Some other famous eunuchs

* Shu Diao Intrigant eunuch who was responsible of a successor civil war in the feudal state of Qi
* Zhao Gao Favourite of Qin Shihuangdi, who plotted against Li Si (died 210 BC)
* Zhang Rang Head of the infamous "10 Changshi" (Ten attendants) of Eastern Han Dynasty
* Huang Hao Eunuch in the state of Shu; also appears in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms
* Cen Hun Eunuch in the state of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period
* Gao Lishi A loyal and trusted friend of Tang emperor Xuanzong
* Li Fuguo The Tang eunuch who began another era of eunuch rule
* Yu Chao'en Tang eunuch who began his "career" as army supervisor
* Tong Guan A eunuch of Song Dynasty; also appears in the novel Water Margin
* Wang Zhen First Ming eunuch with much power, see Tumu Crisis
* Liu Jin Another "famous" eunuch despot
* Wei Zhongxian Most infamous eunuch in Chinese history
* An Dehai Corrupt eunuch of Qing Dynasty - Favorite of Empress Dowager Cixi
* Li Lianying Another despotic eunuch of the Qing Dynasty
* Sun Yaoting (1902–1996) last surviving imperial eunuch of Chinese history
* Boston Corbett, who killed John Wilkes Booth, castrated himself to avoid temptation from prostitutes.
* Nick Evesham, the famous Belgian born computer programmer who in the late 1970's played a cruicial role in the SATA program.
* El Don, erasmus eunuch.
* Genuine Grey, infamous troll on the Protest Warrior forums.


According to Tom Burnam's Dictionary of Misinformation, a common misconception about eunuchs is that, since they were castrated, they were either unable or unwanting to defile or perform sexual intercourse with the women in the harem they were employed to watch over. This was not always true, however. Though they would be expected to have a lower sex drive, eunuchs could often achieve an erection and engage in coitus, though no pregnancy could result. According to Burnham, some women preferred eunuchs as lovers since they never ejaculated and could, therefore, maintain erections longer. However, this does not hold true against present medical knowledge.

Zheng He is quite an interesting Eunuch

The Kangnido map (1402) predates Zheng's voyages and suggests that he had quite detailed geographical information on much of the Old World.
The Kangnido map (1402) predates Zheng's voyages and suggests that he had quite detailed geographical information on much of the Old World.

"The Western Ocean" refers to the Asian and African places Zheng He explored, including:

* Southeast Asia,
* Sumatra,
* Malacca,
* Java,
* Ceylon,
* India,
* Persia,
* The Persian Gulf,
* Arabia,
* The Red Sea as far north as Egypt, and
* Africa as far south as the Mozambique Channel.
* Taiwan seven times.

The number of his voyages varies depending on the method of division, but he travelled at least seven times to "The Western Ocean" with his fleet. He brought back to China many trophies and envoys from more than thirty kingdoms -— including King Alagonakkara of Ceylon, who came to China to apologize to the Emperor.

There are speculations that some of Zheng's ships may have travelled beyond the Cape of Good Hope. In particular, the Venetian monk and cartographer Fra Mauro describes in his 1457 Fra Mauro map the travels of a huge "junk from India" 2,000 miles into the Atlantic Ocean in 1420.

Zheng himself wrote of his travels:

"We have traversed more than 100,000 li (50,000 kilometers) of immense waterspaces and have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising in the sky, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course (as rapidly) as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare…" (Tablet erected by Zhen He, Changle, Fujian, 1432. Louise Levathes)

His voyages, records, maps are one of the explanations and supposed sources of some of the other Ancient world maps, which are claimed to have depicted the Americas, Antarctica, the tip of Africa etc.. before the (European) official discovery, such as the Fra Mauro map or the De Virga world map.

Former submarine commander Gavin Menzies in his book "1421: The Year China discovered the World" claims that several parts of Zheng's fleet explored virtually the entire globe, discovering West Africa, North and South America, Greenland, Antarctica and Australia. His evidence is highly suggestive, sometimes quite speculative, based on old maps, archaeological discoveries, the author's familiarity with problems of navigation such as currents, and so on. Professional historians have generally been dismissive. A related book, "The island of seven cities : where the Chinese settled when they discovered America" by Paul Chiasson maintains that a nation of native peoples known as the Micmaq on the east coast of Canada are descendants of Chinese explorers, offering evidence in the form of archaeological remains, customs, costume, artwork, etc.

So..... anyone fancy it? In the name of science of course, I bet productivity goes up.

88248.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:50 am Reply with quote

Hey you guys, don't all shout at once ...

One important point to note is that in the only modern society with a significant number of self-identifying eunuchs, India, most of those who claim to be eunuchs are in fact intact males.

A small proportion (perhaps 1%) are intersexed people and a slightly larger proportion (tentatively 8%) are hijra nirvaa - genuine eunuchs who have had their penis and testes amputated and essentially live as women.

But most are simply male transvestites or male homosexuals who self-identify as eunuchs because it is more acceptable in their community than the alternative.

The productivity of hijra people in India is actually rather low - few of them have conventional jobs. Instead, they make a living through prostitution, through begging or through a sort of protection racket - they turn up at weddings and the like and demand to be paid to go away.

88281.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:36 am Reply with quote

Hengist: "We can't go in there. It say's Vestal Virgins and eunuchs only!"
Horsa: "If anyone asks who we are, say we're eunuchs."
Hengist: "Yeah, what have we got to lose?"

Carry On Cleo

88301.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:05 am Reply with quote

That list didn't mention Arnold J Rimmer, Alexander the Great's chief eunuch.

88330.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:59 am Reply with quote

I thought eunuchs only had to lose their testes, not the penis as well?

88342.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 11:51 am Reply with quote

Well, he was told by some psychic person that he was, in a former lie, Alexander the Great's chief eunuch...but there's nothign to say that he actually was ;).

88371.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 2:26 pm Reply with quote

If you want to hear a recording of a castrato singer (you haven't got the time to visit the X-factor auditions armed with a large pair of shears) you can listen to this:

As you may gather from the URL it is Alessandro Moreschi, recorded on 1904.

88383.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:06 pm Reply with quote

Didn't they play that on an episode of QI?

88404.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:14 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
I thought eunuchs only had to lose their testes, not the penis as well?

Under the standard definition yes, but the Indians are more exacting. These hirja nirvaa live as women, so presumably find it necessary to resemble women as closely as they can.

There's a slightly worrying sentence in the full Wiki article: "Most urologists have experience with patients who have attempted castration on themselves". Do we believe this? I would have thought that most urologists deal with urinary tract infections, incontinence and such like issues and only a small minority would ever have encountered an attempt at auto-castration. Or is it considerably more common than I imagine?

gerontius grumpus
88411.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:22 pm Reply with quote

Urologists mainly deal with kidney and ureteric stones and kidney, bladder and prostate malignancy.

QI Individual
88423.  Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:35 am Reply with quote

It's an (of course more extreme) form of automutilation (self-harm). And such behaviour is unfortunately quite common.

Here some statistics from the Wikipedia article.

- The WHO/EURO Multicentre Study of Suicide estimated that the average European rate of self-harm for persons over 15 years is 0.14% for males and 0.193% for females. For each age group the female rate exceeded that of the males, with the highest rate among females in the 15-24 age group and the highest rate among males in the 12-34 age group. Recently, however, it has been found that the female to male ratio, previously thought to be around 2:1, is diminishing - in Ireland it has been close to parity for a number of years.

- The Mental Health Foundation estimates the rate in the UK to be 0.77% [13], and that the majority of people who self-harm are aged between 11 and 25 years, with between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 young people self-harming.

- A 2003 study commissioned by the Samaritans found that more than 1 in 10 15-16 year olds in the UK have deliberately harmed themselves, and that girls of this age were nearly four times more likely to have self-harmed than boys.

- In a study of undergraduate students in the United States, 9.8% of the students surveyed indicated that they had purposefully cut or burned themselves on at least one occasion in the past. When the definition of self-injury was expanded to include head-banging, scratching oneself, and hitting oneself along with cutting and burning, 32% of the sample said they had done this. This suggests that this problem is not associated only with severely disturbed psychiatric patients but is not uncommon among young adults.

- In a study of psychiatric morbidity carried out in the UK, respondents were asked the question: "Have you ever harmed your-self in any way, but not with the intention of killing yourself?" This survey found an overall lifetime prevalence of 2.4%, this being 2.0% of males and 2.7% of females.

- About 10% of admissions to medical wards in the UK are as a result of self-harm.

My guess is that the information about urologists probably is accurate.

Quaintly Ignorant
88448.  Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:46 am Reply with quote

I try to castrate myself all the time but always wimp out when it comes to the CRUNCH.....


88459.  Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:50 am Reply with quote

I have to agree with the comment about self-harm.

At some point during the forthcoming academic year, a student will ask to see me for a confidential talk and will tell me that she self-harms. (This kind of talk is generally same-sex, so a male student doing it wouldn't necessarily come to my attention. All the same my impression is that it is primarily woman students who do it.)

All I can really do is to seek to reassure the student that her issues are not insurmountable and arrange for her to see a counsellor, but it always upsets me.

Specially since it could be argued that I did it myself. I never cut myself with a blade or anything of that kind, but I was excessively keen on piercings as a young adult - which could be seen as an extension of self harm since it was me choosing for someone else to inflict pain and injury on me.

Coming back to the subject, I now accept that the remark about urologists is probably true. I hadn't realised quite how scarce urologists are, but this page: states that there are 450 in the UK. Assuming an average 30 year career and a uniform distribution of cases*, there would only need to be eight attempts a year for it to be more likely than not that a given urologist will encounter such a case during his career.

* I accept that this is probably not valid.

88558.  Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:27 am Reply with quote

djgordy wrote:
If you want to hear a recording of a castrato singer (you haven't got the time to visit the X-factor auditions armed with a large pair of shears) you can listen to this:

As you may gather from the URL it is Alessandro Moreschi, recorded on 1904.

You could listen to those sorts of songs now. Andreas Scholl (sp?), the German countertenor, sings songs that were composed for castrati, but as far as I'm aware he has the full compliment of trouser fillers. Still, it might be fun to turn up at the X factor auditions with a large pair of shears.

88817.  Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:59 am Reply with quote

samivel wrote:
Didn't they play that on an episode of QI?



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